Gift Guide: 5 Must Have Sensory Gifts For 3-4 Year Olds To Encourage Play

"The Gift of Play!"

Our kids learn through play, so providing fun and engaging activities to boost their learning is a priority but I see lot’s of parents posting on social media asking for recommendation of activities they can buy for their children because they struggle to get them to engage for longer than a few minutes with the toys they have. 

First up, children do have surprisingly short attention spans with an average of 2-5 minutes per year of their age (so a 2 year old will average 4-10 minutes on an activity), now this is an average so you may get less or more from an activity but the key to increasing engagement in play is to provide activities that are open ended and allow them to explore, sensory play is perfect for this.

So with that in mind I have created a mini guide of my 5 ‘Must Have’ gifts for sensory play, perfect resources to give as a present which will give your child hours of fun.

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission from.  I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own.

Light ups toys are perfect for some energy busting play and paired with some upbeat music and some bubbles or musical instruments ( I love Halilit Musical Instruments) it can keep them entertained for while.

disco ball light is a great resource for babies, toddlers and older kids too and great for those dull rainy days too. You can also add some handheld glow toys – keep it simple with some glowsticks (pop in a plastic bottle for babies so they don’t chew them) or you can buy flashing handheld disco sticks too.

Sensory Trays are a great sit down table top activity which will keep your little one entertained. Mostly with loose parts although you can use more messy sticky substances, they are fantastic to allow your little one to explore lots of different textures and are great to encourage their fine motor skills too.

Our favourite trays involve coloured rice, or dried cereal or pasta with little plastic figures and scoops or tongs.

If you want to make your own sensory trays then you can purchase bags of coloured rice from Mini Senses and add your own loose parts for play but Mini Senses also does some lovely Sensory Play Kits which you can purchase and add to your own tray. Any shallow tray works well, I have a variety of wooden and plastic rectangle trays I have picked up over the years but my favourite at the moment is my most recent purchase of this white round enamel tray from Amazon.

I have purchased Mini Senses Christmas Sensory Kit for the girls and they absolutely love it and Lisa has kindly given a discount code for my lovely followers with 10% off – use code PLAYTIMETOTS10 at checkout.

Such a simple activity but I haven’t found a child who doesn’t enjoy water play and there are so many ways to jazz it up but playing with coloured water is the most magical thing for children and it will keep them happy for a while.

Using food colouring and setting up a variety of coloured water in beakers and using droppers to transfer and mix the water is a fantastic activity, these droppers from Learning Resources are perfect for small hands or you can keep it simple and add different plastic figures to coloured water like the Sail The Seas activity in November’s Tot’s Playtime Box.

Receiving a delivery is exciting as an adult and even more exciting for children, having something delivered every month addressed to them is the gift that keeps on giving for both them and you as everything is included and ready to go so you don’t need to think about what to play. 

Tot’s Playtime Box is my Preschool ‘Learn Through Play’ Activity Box which includes a themed sensory/messy play activity each month along with a variety of activities so not only does you little one get the benefit of sensory play but they can also get craft, take on a challenge with a game and enjoy all the activities in the activity booklet with stickers. You can subscribe to the monthly box & save 25% or buy a one of box plus there is also 3 and 6 month Gift Subscriptions available too.

Tuff trays are perfect for messy play activities as it contains the mess but it is also accessible for all ages – babies, toddlers and preschoolers so a great investment and they are also a great base for crafts too – my girls have loved using chalk pens on the tray. If you need some inspiration for messy play then check out my blog – 5 Messy Play Activities With Food (Taste Safe)

It’s not just for messy play though, paired with a tuff tray mat insert they are also great for small world set up we have a lots of mats from Tiger Moon and they make our play set ups so much more attractive, my favourite is the Picnic Blanket Mat and my girls love the Mermaid Lagoon mat but they have a massive range of mats from countryside, underwater, roads and race tracks and more, definitely go and checkout their full range of tuff tray mats here.

We use our tuff tray inside and out and prefer to use it on the floor but you can get stands to raise the tray to the perfect height for your little one to stand and play. 

The only downside is that Tuff Trays can be quite large to store at around 1m wide, but mini tuff trays and play trays are now available which are the perfect solution if you are lacking space.

So that’s my top 5 gifts for sensory play, and I am sure your little one will love them just as much as my girls!

“Playtime Made Easy”

Happy Playing, Love Karen xx 

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